My classes have currently completed five full days of Penny Kilttle's Book Love. Yep. Our first week of school was actually a five-day week. Needless to say it was a long week. And though it was hard on me to give up the stress-free life of summer, my students actually fared pretty well. Upon our first meeting, I introduced the idea of choice reads. We went to the library on the second day of school. Honors and regular alike, every student found a book that they want to read. I showed students how to calculate the number of pages they needed to read in order to attain their weekly goals. We have read silently twice: once for ten minutes and once for 15 minutes. I actually read a book that I wanted to read for more or less two hours this week! Not consecutive hours, but two hours nonetheless. That in itself is actually amazing! I read along side the students. And students read. I would say 95% read.
Kittle's plan seems to work. Of course, I'll reserve judgement until the end of the year...I always have opinions! Currently, I'm optimistic. In addition to a choice reading program, I introduced a working portfolio system (Kittle's Write Beside Them) that should foster writing. The students will write in composition books answering prompts, taking notes, brainstorming ideas, in general, documenting their thoughts as we progress through the year. They will use both their choice books and mentor texts that I introduce as fodder for their writing.
The students seem to be taking it seriously. We shall see. I will talk with students next week. I did talk with one student who had no idea what he was reading. He said that he would start reading and then his mind would start drifting off to another topic. Also that he couldn't follow what was happening in the novel. That is an indicator that the book he chose was too challenging. He needs a different book.
After reading Kittle's books, I recognized the one essential part of her plan that Kittle didn't quite emphasize enough is the need to start the habits right from the beginning so that by the middle of the year the students are actually ready to participate in an environment with the goal of learning. If students get a bite of a "better-tasting" type of classroom structure (i.e. one with looser work standards), they will never want to fully commit to a more hearty meal.
The next couple of weeks will be very interesting.